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WINNEBAGO, Neb. | The mark David Wingett leaves on the Winnebago High School basketball court and record books will leave an impressive legacy.

More than 2,000 points scored. All-state selections. Part of at least one state championship team.

But it's the mark he's leaving among young and old in the community that's just as, if not more, impressive.

On Thursday morning, Winnebago's boys basketball team begins play in the Nebraska state basketball tournament, taking aim at a second state championship in three years to go with last year's third-place finish.

A 6-foot, 7-inch senior, Wingett will wrap up his storied high school career sometime this week, going down in history as one of Nebraska's best high school players.

All those numbers and achievements are only a part of what the son of David Wingett Sr. and Darla LaPointe has done for his school and community, said his coach and uncle, Jeff Berridge.

"A lot of people here think he should have gone off to a bigger school. He chose to stay here and be a Winnebago Indian," Berridge said. "He shows kids in the community you can chase your dreams."

He chose to remain here, with his friends and family to see how much they could achieve.

"I love Winnebago that much. I knew if we stayed together here, we'd do something great together," Wingett said.

That greatness they've achieved has been a rallying point for community members, who usually pack whatever gym the Indians are playing in. It's helped heal some of the bitterness after the fallout from allegations and a 2015 federal audit that revealed questionable spending by Winnebago Tribal Council members. The allegations that led up to the audit and then the resulting actions -- council member resignations and removals -- led to community unrest.

The basketball team's winning ways and Wingett's stellar play helped bring the community back together," Berridge said.

"It gave hope," he said. "It gave the community something to watch. It gave them a distraction."

Wingett's highlight-worthy dunks and three-point shots soothed some of those bad feelings and elevated him to role model status for children in the community.

Naturally soft-spoken and a little shy, Wingett has embraced the role, Berridge said. He's gotten comfortable with signing autographs and taking pictures with fans young and old after each game.

Wingett remembers what it was like to be younger and idolize the high school players.

"I used to be that kid, so I can't say no (to them)," Wingett said. "It's a pretty big blessing to know there's that many kids that watch me and look up to me."

Wingett's talent has attracted college recruiters and basketball fans curious to see how good he is. That attention has opened many eyes to other things that Winnebago has to offer, school superintendent Dan Fehringer said.

"People come to see him and they're amazed to see the facilities we have," Fehringer said. "David just fits into it. We have lots of opportunities for our kids."

Fehringer has watched Wingett handle the pressure that high expectations and being a role model can bring. His achievements have been impressive, but it's likely that the real impact will continue to unfold over the coming decades, Fehringer said.

"I think the biggest impact is what he chooses to do with his life after high school," he said.

College basketball is in Wingett's immediate future. But for this week, he's going to enjoy his final games as a high school student and what the success he and the team have achieved has meant.

"I'm definitely going to miss it," he said. "I just hope when I look back I know I did all the right things to benefit my team and benefit my school however I could."


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